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Who will be last to turn out the light?

27 May, 2004

Who will be last to turn out the light?

The Green Party is challenging the Labour Government to give up on so-called free trade and instead protect New Zealand industries from unfair competition.

Green Co-Leader Rod Donald made the call following the announcement that Sunbeam is closing its electric blanket factory in Palmerston North with a loss of 34 permanent and almost 100 seasonal jobs.

"The Sunbeam closure is yet another example of a foreign-owned company shutting its New Zealand manufacturing base and shifting production to China," Rod Donald said. "It's not the first to go and, unless the Government steps in with sensible policies to enable local factories to survive, it certainly won't be the last.

Mr Donald said it was no surprise that New Zealand's trade deficit was at record levels, with so many goods once made in New Zealand now being imported. The March trade deficit hit $3741 million, the worst result since statistics began in 1961.

"Labour's policies are totally contradictory. On the one hand it claims to care about New Zealand workers by increasing the minimum wage, introducing paid parental leave and four weeks annual leave and improving health and safety and accident compensation.

"On the other hand, it undermines those very workers and the business where they work by negotiating free trade agreements with sweatshop economies such as Thailand and China and announces unilateral tariff cuts from 2005. Labour can't have it both ways.

"Who will be the last to turn out the light and write the farewell note? It won't be anyone from a light-bulb factory or a photocopier-paper plant, because both of them have closed down in recent years."


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